Pennsylvania Railroad Station - Baker Street Station, Fort Wayne Indiana
The Pennsylvania Railroad Station, or Baker Street Station, is the most prominent remaining structure built in Fort Wayne by the Pennsylvania Railroad, a railroad that made a significant contribution to the development of the city as a major rail and industrial center. The Pennsylvania Station was built during the era in which the transportation of passengers and freight was dominated by the railroads, and it served as the city's primary connection to the national rail system until the end of the passenger era in Fort Wayne.
The Fort Wayne Pennsylvania Railroad Station was built on West Baker Street in 1913-1914, while construction of an adjacent rail elevation was underway. When the Pennsylvania Station opened to the public March 23, 1914, it was visited by ten thousand people and was pronounced the largest and grandest of the city's four rail stations. The building served as Fort Wayne's chief railroad station through the era of railroad dominance of transportation in the area, and was the principal gateway used by travelers arriving in and departing from Fort Wayne. Rail traffic at the station reached a peak of fifty trains per day in the 1920s. Pennsylvania Station saw its greatest use during World War II, as an estimated three thousand people passed through the depot daily. The servicemen awaiting trains could do so in a U.S.O. canteen within the building. The station was also the scene of many events significant to the community, such as whistle-stop campaign speeches by every U.S. President from Harding to Eisenhower. The heavy use of the building prompted the railroad to undertake a major renovation of the structure in 1952. The decline of passenger rail service, however, led to many years of neglect, and the end of service by Amtrak in November 1990. After several years of vacancy, the Pennsylvania Station was rehabilitated for service as professional offices, and for receptions in the main concourse.
Fort Wayne has an important place in the history of transportation in the Great Lakes and Midwest regions. Its location at the confluence of three rivers, the St. Joseph, St. Marys, and Maumee, made it a central point for travel on the rivers by both Native Americans and European traders and settlers. The site was a gathering place for Native American tribes for centuries, and was a traditional trade center for the Miami, Potowatomi, Wea, and other tribes which inhabited the Great Lakes region. The three rivers provided access to the Great Lakes and much of Ohio, as well as northern and central Indiana. In addition, a short, swampy 7-8 mile portage over a continental divide, between the St. Marys River and the Little Wabash River to the west, gave access to the Illinois lands and to southern Indiana, as well as to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This portage was the only place where travelers by boat had to go overland when making their way from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The extensive natural transportation network gave the site of Fort Wayne distinct advantages for commerce and settlement. The Miami village of Kekionga flourished at the site, as the French moved into the area from Canada in the early eighteenth century. French traders inhabited the area, and the French established a succession of frontier outposts. The American fort from which the community derived its name was built in 1794.
As American settlers began to move into northern Indiana, Fort Wayne continued to play an important part in the history of transportation systems in the Midwest; the city had a vital role in the development of the Wabash & Erie Canal. In the early 1820s, Fort Wayne business leaders such as Samuel Hanna petitioned the Indiana legislature for a study of a canal route through the Maumee and Wabash River valleys, across the portage at Fort Wayne. By 1829 sufficient support had been gathered for the project to begin, and Samuel Hanna and two other Hoosiers were named commissioners for the canal project. Ground was broken for the project in Fort Wayne in 1832 and the entire 452 mile canal was dedicated here in 1843. Fort Wayne was soon dubbed "the Summit City," because it was located at the highest elevation of the canal; and it was opened up to new settlers and greater commerce.
The canal contributed greatly to the development of Fort Wayne, however it soon became clear, by the early 1850s, that canal technology was not reliable enough to produce the levels of transportation that Fort Wayne would need to thrive. In addition, the new technology of rail transportation threatened to bypass the Summit City unless community leaders took swift, aggressive action to ensure that one of the new lines being planned from Pittsburgh to Chicago passed through Fort Wayne. The origins of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Fort Wayne can be traced back to these earliest efforts to bring rail transportation to the city.
It was Samuel Hanna who again was among those who saw the need to bring better transportation facilities to Fort Wayne. Hanna was instrumental in bringing the rails to the city, as well as the numerous railroad-related industries which located in Fort Wayne. When the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad reached Crestline, Ohio, Hanna led a drive in Allen County to encourage investment in the newly formed Ohio and Indiana Railroad, with the purpose of continuing the tracks to Fort Wayne. In 1852, Samuel Hanna, William Mitchell, and Pliny Hoagland were awarded the contract for the construction of the line to Fort Wayne, but soon the entire project was faced with financial difficulties. Dr. Willis Merriman, president of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad, resigned. The company quickly chose Samuel Hanna as its next president, and he traveled east to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Quebec, and Montreal to arrange financing and the release of large shipments of railroad iron imported from Europe which were being held for non-payment of transportation charges. By 1853 work resumed on the project, and in 1854 the rail line was completed to the south side of Fort Wayne. The first railroad excursion train arrived in Fort Wayne from the east on November 15, 1854.
While Samuel Hanna worked to ensure that rail lines were extended to Fort Wayne from the east, he also led the effort to continue those lines on to Chicago. In September, 1852, leaders of the counties between Fort Wayne and Chicago met in Warsaw, Indiana to form the Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad Company, choosing Hanna as its president. This company worked slowly over the next few years to extend tracks westward from Fort Wayne to Chicago, but funding was limited. By 1856 only about 20 miles of the route was completed and in service. In August, 1856 the decision was made to merge the separate companies to form the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad. The line was completed to Chicago in 1858, and was the most direct route from Pittsburgh and other eastern cities. With this rail line complete, Fort Wayne was assured a place of importance in the emerging national rail transportation network.
The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad operated as such until 1869, when the rail line was leased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was incorporated into the Pennsylvania system, and formed part of its New York to Chicago main line. The Pennsylvania eventually became the largest railroad in the United States. It rose to prominence in the period after the Civil War, when financial consolidation of existing railroads led to the dominance of large railroad systems. The Pennsylvania system stretched from the East Coast to Chicago and St. Louis, with extensive overlapping networks. During its heyday the Pennsylvania Railroad billed itself as "The Standard Railroad of the World," and it brought heavy rail traffic and access to Fort Wayne. It also made a significant contribution to local industrial development.
In 1857, shortly after the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad was formed, the directors of the railroad (with encouragement from Samuel Hanna) chose Fort Wayne as the site for the line's all-important repair and construction shops. The site chosen, next to the tracks on the south side of Fort Wayne, was first developed in 1853 by blacksmiths John and Charles Cooper. The operation was purchased in the next year by Sion Bass, who established a foundry and machine shops on the site. Bass then sold this entire, convenient operation to the railroad. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad quickly put the shops to use in the maintenance and construction of locomotives and rail cars. The shops soon received attention for producing the expensive "Fort Wayne Silver Palace Cars," a refinement of the Pullman sleeping car design. These luxurious cars used the best springs available, and featured elegant carpeting, upholstery, wood trim, and other interior appointments. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago shops grew significantly during the Civil War, while providing critical material help to the Union war effort.
The shops were a major enterprise by 1869 when the Pennsylvania Railroad took over the operation of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad. The Pennsylvania Railroad invested in the shops with significant expansions in 1882, 1903, and 1918. As the "Pennsy Shops," as they were now called, were further developed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, they became a key component of the Pennsylvania system; and this railroad industry was key to the growth and development of Fort Wayne in the late nineteenth century. (Fort Wayne was even briefly labeled as the "Altoona of the West" because of the importance of the shops). The Pennsy Shops, of course, were a major employer in Fort Wayne, with over one thousand men employed at one time. They helped spur population growth of the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and were one of the reasons for Fort Wayne's dynamic position in the later nineteenth century (and in the twentieth century) as a center for foundries and manufacturing.
In the Fort Wayne Pennsy Shops, a complex that once stretched along the Pennsylvania tracks for nearly three miles, the Pennsylvania Railroad made a significant contribution to the development of rail transportation equipment. Here, the railroad designed, built, tested, repaired, and overhauled hundreds of locomotives and thousands of railroad cars. Under the direction of Fort Wayne-based master mechanic James Boone, the locomotives of the Pennsy Shops were among the leading locomotives of the 1870s. "Boone-built" locomotives, which were designed and built in Fort Wayne, broke many speed and performance records. The Pennsylvania system's Class X locomotives (also called the Steffin Engine, after its designer) were also designed and built in the Fort Wayne Pennsylvania Shops from 1892-1897. These engines were also known for speed and performance; in one case a locomotive stunned railroaders by leaving Fort Wayne an hour and a half late, but arriving in Chicago only 14 minutes behind schedule.
The Pennsylvania Shops in Fort Wayne continued to produce locomotives into the twentieth century. Production ceased after World War I, but repair and overhaul of engines continued until 1933. Production of passenger railroad cars continued, however it declined sharply after World War II. By 1966 the railroad had abandoned all of the shop property; and in 1984 the roundhouse, the last and most distinctive remaining building of the shops, was demolished.
The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Pennsy Shops also made a significant contribution to the development of the community by encouraging the development of heavy industry, with much of it being rail-related. For example, after he sold his business to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad, Sion Bass then formed the partnership of Jones and Bass with William H. Jones, and established a new foundry and machine shop on the opposite side of the tracks. In 1862 this foundry was purchased by John H. Bass, brother of Sion Bass, and it became known as the Bass Foundry and Machine Works. The Bass Foundry grew quickly during the Civil War, specializing in manufacturing railroad car wheels and axles for the adjacent railroad shops. By 1869, when John Bass founded the St. Louis Car Wheel Company, the Bass companies had become the largest manufacturers of locomotive and railroad car rolling equipment in the United States. The Bass Foundry contributed greatly to the Fort Wayne economy; at its height the foundry employed 2,500 workers, who also produced steam engines, boilers, vaults, and structural iron. The Olds Wagon Works, which manufactured wagons, wagon wheels, and railroad cars, was also located near the Pennsylvania Shops. Today, portions of the Bass Foundry (dating from c.1875 and c.1880), and the c.1882 Olds Wagon Works building, survive on the south side of the railroad tracks, but both are in a neglected condition.
Although the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad, when first extended to Fort Wayne, were located at the southern edge of the city; by the early twentieth century a number of streetcar suburbs had developed south of the tracks. In 1909, the Pennsylvania Railroad, along with the Wabash Railroad, announced a joint project to elevate their tracks, now near the south edge of downtown. Work began in March, 1910, with the railroads responsible for 75 percent of the cost of the work; the City of Fort Wayne paid the remaining 25 percent. While this project eliminated many grade crossings on city streets, it also caused the railroads to abandon the existing passenger depot (built in 1860) which they shared. Though city leaders urged the creation of a new union passenger terminal, the railroads planned separate stations.
The Pennsylvania Railroad made plans to make its new station the largest and most elaborate passenger station of the four depots in Fort Wayne. Although Fort Wayne was served by several passenger rail lines, both the Pennsylvania Railroad and local residents knew the "Pennsy" was the most important to the transportation needs of the city. As the depot was under construction, many people in the community feared that the building was too small to serve Fort Wayne ("Work Progresses on New Pennsy Depot"). The completed building, however, was firm testimony to the dominance of the Pennsylvania Railroad in freight and long-distance passenger travel in the Fort Wayne market. It also reflected the railroad's commitment to the city, and the importance of Fort Wayne as a stop on the railroad's main line to Chicago from the east. The station was certainly built in a period of great stability for the Pennsylvania, and other U.S. railroads; they were dominant in traffic and employment, and the peak mileage of 254,000 miles would be reached by the national rail system in 1916.
Upon its completion the Fort Wayne Pennsylvania Station was embraced by the city, and became a source of pride after ten thousand people visited the station on its opening day ("Ten Thousand People Visit Pennsylvania For Station Opening"). The crowds marveled at the decorative and artistic features of the building, as well as the latest technological features which were incorporated into the structure. One such feature was the system of twenty-three "annunciator" horns which were linked to a transmitter in the telegraph office which resembled "an ordinary telephone receiver." These horns broadcasted the voice of the train caller throughout the facility, without the need for him to raise his voice or shout ("First Photos and Description of New Pennsy Depot"). The formal opening of the new station was announced over these "annunciators" at 9:45 am, March 23, 1914.
As the Pennsylvania Railroad Station was the principal gateway used by travelers arriving in and departing from Fort Wayne, the new depot instantly became the busiest passenger depot in the city. It was soon filled with a variety of travelers, from mothers and children to businessmen and grandmothers, who were beginning or ending their journeys; or simply killing time, waiting for their journeys to continue. The building, like all major passenger stations of the time, was the most important link in the city's connection with the national rail transportation network. It was the place where the local community met the outside world. It was where people greeted visitors and said farewell to loved ones. It was the place where new ideas, products, and people first arrived in the community. In Lawrence Grow's book Waiting For The 5:05, Clay Lancaster wrote, "Broadly considered, the railroad station was the focus of the...community. The train station was the image of the community, presenting at a glance something about its size, affluence, livelihood, and social range of the citizens, (and) their taste in architecture".
This idea of the station as the gateway to the community is clearly illustrated, in the case of Fort Wayne's Pennsylvania Station, by the press coverage which the station received when it opened in 1914. In the article titled "First Photos and Description of New Pennsy Depot," which appeared in the Fort Wayne Daily News, the reporter wrote "...the entrance hall is sufficient introduction to the family that occupies the house. The front door can invite or repel. Fort Wayne surely has not issued any tempting invitations to the passing public in recent years....But the new station will greet the newcomer...with open arms." An editorial cartoon appeared in the Fort Wayne Sentinel the day after the opening of the new station in 1914. The cartoon, titled "Passenger Depots As Town Boosters," depicts the former (built 1860) and the new Pennsylvania Railroad Stations; the cartoonist also illustrates the much improved image which Fort Wayne would soon have with rail travelers. The small caption below the cartoon reads, "Many travelers, you know, see nothing of a town except the depot." (In the cartoon, a small rabbit also rings a bell on the roof of each depot, saying "Ring out the old" and "Ring in the new.")
The Pennsylvania Station eventually saw a peak in rail traffic of fifty trains per day in the 1920s, but its role as the city's primary rail transportation center was greatly enhanced during World War II. The building saw its greatest average daily use in these war years, as an average of from 2,500 to 3,000 people (mostly servicemen) passed through the terminal daily. The servicemen who awaited trains could do so in a U.S.O. canteen that was established in the former men's smoking lounge area on the east side of the main concourse. Typically these servicemen were either on their way home on furloughs, were returning to duty from furloughs, or were traveling because of re-assignment. A newspaper article of February 22, 1945 states that "many of the women at the station were lonely war wives traveling either alone or with others to visit their husbands at camps" ("Railway Terminal Busy Place With 3,000 in Movement Daily"). This article also illustrates the continued importance of the Pennsylvania Station as a meeting place for the community during World War II.
It recounts the story of the wife of a Fort Wayne serviceman, Pharmacist's Mate Cecil Laymon. She was waiting for his train, and she planned to be with him during a five-minute stopover in Fort Wayne; her husband was being re-assigned from Connecticut to the west. It would seem likely that such brief, emotional, and personal encounters were a common occurrence among the thousands of travelers at the busy station during the war years.
The Pennsylvania Station was the scene of many events significant to the community, such as whistle stop campaign speeches, which brought every U.S. President from Warren G. Harding to Dwight D. Eisenhower traveling to Fort Wayne's front door. These were major community events which attracted large crowds to the station. (However, some were larger than others.) President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to 30,000 people at a whistle stop speech in the fall of 1944. President Harry S. Truman spoke for ten minutes on June 4, 1948 to a crowd of 3,000. The last whistle stop speech at Pennsylvania Station, delivered by presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower, was on September 14, 1952. Ike spoke for fifteen minutes to 5,000 people who filled Baker and S. Harrison Streets. He spoke with his back to the station, from a platform placed at the northeast corner of the building, urging an end to the war in Korea.
The station also served as a more light-hearted gathering place for the community. Santa Claus arrived annually at the depot on the day after Thanksgiving, beginning in 1945. He was sponsored by Fort Wayne's largest downtown department store, Wolf and Dessauer; and he continued his annual visits into the 1950s. A related event was the "Santa Claus Special," a train excursion from Fort Wayne to Chicago that was sponsored for several years in the 1950s by local radio station WOWO. In addition to Christmas-time events, on at least one occasion (in 1952) the station's main concourse was used for a dance sponsored by railroad employees.
Although rail traffic was declining, the station's heavy use forced the railroad to renovate the structure in 1952, with work completed just prior to General Eisenhower's visit. The rate of decline in the number of rail passengers, however, did not become pronounced until the mid-1950s, when postwar road and airport development (encouraged by President Eisenhower) led to the displacement of the railroads by cars, buses, and trucks as the principal means of long-distance travel and express shipping. As the business of the railroad quickly changed, changes in the use of Fort Wayne's Pennsylvania Station followed. In 1962 the offices of the Fort Wayne Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad were relocated to the depot from the Fort Wayne car shop site, which had been largely abandoned by that time. These offices remained in the building as division headquarters for successors of the Pennsylvania Railroad, including first Penn Central (1968-1971), and later Conrail (1971-1981). From 1981 to the end of passenger rail service to Fort Wayne in 1990, Amtrak was the sole tenant of the station, neglecting the building as it serviced only 2 to 4 trains per day. The building was vacant from 1990 to 1996, when rehabilitation work began.
William L. Price (1861-1916) was a prominent Philadelphia architect, and a leading architect in the Arts and Crafts movement. His partner, M. Hawley McLanahan (1865-1929), was also a native of Pennsylvania. Price was a native, life-long resident of Philadelphia, who was apprenticed to a carpenter as a youth. Price was later trained in architectural practice by working as a draftsman in the office of the Pennsylvania Railroad, designing stations for the railroad west of Pittsburgh. William L. Price practiced architecture in the late 19th century in association with two brothers, Frank and Walter Price. He also had his own practice in the 1890s, designing stores, commercial buildings, and private homes in Philadelphia. After 1900 the firm of Price & McLanahan was formed, with Price as the senior partner.
Price & McLanahan became known for the design of major resort hotels and both
large and small railroad stations which used Neoclassical massing and
architectural forms, but were uniquely enriched by the use of Art Nouveau, and
later Arts and Crafts, architectural features and details). Price &
McLanahan designed picturesque resort hotels in several Atlantic coast cities,
Even though his firm was well-known in other areas of architectural practice, William L. Price never strayed far from his early training in the design of rail stations. He continued to actively develop the specialty after 1900. The firm submitted a design in the competition for the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Station in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which was held in 1907. Although the design was not accepted, it clearly shows the relationship between the design of railroad stations and resort hotels. Price also designed the Allegheny, Pennsylvania passenger station, which was described as similar to the Fort Wayne station ("Some Camera Glimpses..."). Price designed some two dozen stations for the Western division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, but Fort Wayne's Pennsylvania Station is one of only two major stations which survive. (The other major station is in Canton, Ohio.) Smaller depots remain in Hartford City and Plymouth, Indiana. The small Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Hobart, Indiana was designed by Price & McLanahan. In addition to his design work, William Price also wrote about railroad station design for other architects. An article titled "The Designing of Small Railway Stations" was published in October, 1911 in The American Architect.
The Fort Wayne Pennsylvania Railroad Station is a unique structure in the architectural history of Fort Wayne. In the Pennsylvania Station, William L. Price created a personal architectural expression by combining elements adapted from historical styles with those prevalent during the American Arts and Crafts movement. The building's unique stylistic quality results from Price's use of classical architectural elements, such as the imposing Diocletian windows at the ends of the main concourse, and the smaller versions of these windows found in the gables of the east and west wings. These windows are reminiscent of early classical designs revived by Palladio in the 16th century, and used more extensively in Neoclassical architecture. Price's use of brick construction, with the additional use of decorative brick patterns and terra cotta (since replaced with limestone), demonstrated his mastery of the Arts and Crafts style as well as classical styles.
The Pennsylvania station is also unique among Fort Wayne's railroad depots for its use of subway tunnels and stairways to provide safe access for passengers from the station to the railroad platforms. This design solution compensated well for the change of elevation between the station and the platforms, and it provided a much safer environment than other stations because passengers were not required to cross any rails to reach waiting trains. For example, the now- demolished Wabash passenger station, which was built in 1913 as a part of the track elevation project, did not use any similar system. To compensate for the higher elevation of the tracks the station was built with two stories. The first floor was at street level, and the second floor was equal in height to the tracks. Interior and exterior stairs, along with a freight elevator, provided access to the tracks. Although the Wabash design compensated for the change in elevation, passengers were required to cross active tracks to reach some trains.
Today, the station is one of only two remaining passenger depots in the city.
The other surviving depot is the former Lake Shore and Michigan Southern (later the New York Central) depot, also known as the Cass Street Depot. This outstanding one-story Queen Anne style depot, built in 1889, is remarkably intact and has been adapted for commercial use. Fort Wayne's other former passenger depots have not been so fortunate. The 1860 Pennsylvania Railroad depot was demolished in 1961, the 1913 Wabash depot was destroyed in 1977, and the 1881 Nickel Plate depot was removed to make way for a track elevation project in 1952. The last remaining buildings of the former Pennsylvania Shops were demolished in 1984. The sole remaining buildings in Fort Wayne (other than the station) associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad are a group of four two-story freight warehouses built in 1929.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Station, or Baker Street Station, is located on the southern edge of downtown Fort Wayne, at the southwest corner of Baker and Harrison Streets. The property consists of several distinct elements: the passenger station and the adjacent brick parking lot, and the grounds which surround them at street level, and the track elevation area, which includes a pedestrian tunnel that once led to platforms separated by former track areas. Although the station property originally separated the railroad corridor from a residential area to the north, the southward expansion of the downtown area along Harrison Street had replaced much of the housing by 1960. Today, the six-block area to the north of the station has been converted into surface parking lots, with the exception of two substantial office buildings. The quarter block to the east of the station across Harrison Street, once a small park included in the station grounds, has become a transfer lot used by city buses. To the west of the station, on the south side of Baker Street, is an asphalt parking lot on the former site of the Pennsylvania Railroad freight house. Further west on Baker Street are two former postal warehouse buildings. The track elevation continues south of the platform area approximately one hundred feet; the area south of the elevation is a mixture of residential, commercial, and industrial uses.
The principal structure is the passenger station, which along with the now-demolished freight house, was designed by William L. Price of the Philadelphia architectural firm Price and McLanahan and constructed by Chicago builder George Swift and Company in 1912-1914. The station is a two-story Arts and Crafts style design clad in semi-glazed buff brick and originally trimmed in unglazed yellow terra cotta. The passenger station has a cruciform plan. A gabled central section contains the concourse and is flanked by lesser wings on either side; a one-story flat-roofed area spans between the rear of the station and the retaining wall of the track elevation.
The original exterior treatment of the building was a mixture of Arts and Crafts with classical and medieval devices. Each wing of the station has a gabled central portion flanked by shorter flat-roofed side bays, in a manner that is reminiscent of the nave and side aisle form of Gothic cathedrals. Though the use of projecting buttresses at the corners of the wings and of a high projecting base for the walls are also devices derived from medieval architecture, most of the other decorative details used are of classical origin. On the facade, the projecting end of the concourse is treated as a giant round-arched portal flanked by tapered paneled piers. These piers were originally topped by terra cotta caps decorated with laurel wreath motifs flanking convex parapets once extended from the sides of the piers downward to the caps of the side bay buttresses, which were crowned by winged globes. The portal itself is a large Diocletian window divided by a series of vertical wood mullions and a horizontal spandrel that extends across the opening at the spring line of the arch. A similar window is used on the rear (south) end of the concourse. Below the spandrel, three bays once filled with pairs of entrance doors are separated by wooden piers. The marquee, originally glazed with wire glass and trimmed with copper, is mounted on the spandrel at an acute angle. The walls of the flanking wings are divided into bays by pilasters which merge with the plane of a spandrel above. The wall panels are topped by bands of brick corbels; each bay contains one or more large wooden windows with small-pane double-hung sash. Originally the walls were crowned by a projecting molded terra cotta cornice that was continuous with the caps of the corner buttresses, as well as paneled parapets whose dies were placed above the tops of the pilasters. The raised central bays of the side wings were treated in a similar manner, and their second-story end gables retain segmental-arched windows that are divided into three openings by brick piers. The tops of the gables are trimmed with a projecting string course and flanked by the tops of the corner buttresses.
The flat-roofed rear concourse area, a transitional space that links the station structure and the track elevation, is built entirely of concrete; originally its ends were enclosed by wood and glass curtain walls. The roof of this area included a grid of flat skylights directly behind the main concourse and a hip-roofed skylight with monitor windows over each of the flanking areas behind the side wings. The single file of tapered columns in this area continues east o£ the station as the front of a covered pedestrian walkway along the railroad elevation retaining wall.
The present exterior appearance of the passenger station is largely the result of a 1952 renovation. At that time, the original standing-seam copper roofs of the gabled portions of the concourse and side wings were replaced with asphalt roofing, and the vent on the ridge of the concourse roof was removed and replaced by three semi-circular vents on either side of the roof. The original built-in gutters were eliminated from the gabled portions of the roof, and the interior drains were eliminated from the flat-roofed parts, by the removal of the parapets and the installation of hung gutter troughs at the tops of the walls. The entrance marquee was stripped of its original detail; asphalt roofing and a plywood soffit replaced its original wire glass, and a corrugated metal fascia was installed on its framing. All of the skylights were removed from the rear concourse roof in 1952, and the bands of clerestory windows used to light the stained glass windows in the ceiling of the main concourse were filled with brick. The roofline of the building was further simplified by the removal of the two large chimneys which flanked either side of the central concourse section.
The terra cotta trim was removed and replaced with limestone cut to the same general shape. Approximately forty percent of the exterior brick was replaced with brick of the same general type and color. In areas where the walls were completely refaced, such as the rear wall of the concourse and the tops of the side wings immediately adjacent to the sides of the concourse, the walls were rebuilt without the decorative coursing or copings included in the original design. An exception to this was the end wall of the west wing, whose corner buttresses were rebuilt, though the original freight doors in two of the bays were eliminated. The pairs of entrance doors used at either end of the main concourse were also replaced by a single wide door flanked with solid panels in each of the original bays. The wooden curtain walls on each end of the rear concourse were replaced by a brick wall on the east end and a brick wall with a large overhead door on the west elevation.
Maintenance of the building was neglected as passenger rail service declined after 1952, and the station fell into extreme disrepair after its abandonment by Amtrak in 1990. As the building stood vacant, with a leaking roof and no heat, it deteriorated rapidly. Its condition was further compromised by vandalism. Although the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission obtained ownership in 1991, and helped stabilize the building with a new roof and repair of brick and mortar, its preservation was not assured until a private development partnership assumed ownership in 1996. The east and west wings of the Baker Street Station are now undergoing rehabilitation for reuse as professional offices, and the concourse will be restored for use in receptions and special events. Alteration to the exterior has been minimal with the rehabilitation work. The most significant alteration has been the replacement of the deteriorated original small-pane double-hung sash windows, and many fixed windows, with new units which match the originals in size, appearance, and texture. These new windows are wood, clad in aluminum which is finished in an appropriate dark green color. One door opening in the west wing has been infilled with matching brick. The rehabilitation plan calls for restoration of the marquee and doors with the restoration of the concourse.
The principal interior space, and the primary architectural feature of the Baker Street Station, is the main concourse. This barrel-vaulted space is two stories in height and occupies the center of the plan, measuring ninety feet long and more than forty feet wide. The concourse has brick walls up to the spring line of its coffered plaster ceiling. Pilasters along the side walls divide the room into five bays; a buff-colored glazed terra cotta cornice runs continuously along the top of the brickwork. Wall arches spring between the tops of the pilasters, as do paneled beams which extend across the ceiling. The panels of both these large beams, and the beams that spring over the wall arches, are enriched with stylized leaf ornamentation. The base of each large beam is enriched with a sculptured shield surrounded by leaf ornamentation. Smaller soffit beams divide the remainder of the ceiling into square coffers. The coffers above the pendentive panels of the wall arches contain stained glass panels that have rectilinear designs done in green and blue glass; these were originally back-lit by both clerestory windows and concealed electric lights. The panels at the top of the ceiling contain plaster grillwork originally used to allow air to escape through a ridge vent above. The room was heated by cast iron radiators placed at the base of each pilaster and behind ornamental vertical grilles flanking the large windows in the end walls. (The room is now temporarily heated with wall-mounted gas heaters.) The wooden curtain walls of the large end-wall windows are finished with paneled pilasters and spandrels identical to their exterior treatment. A single continuous curved panel is set into the wall above each of the large windows. An ornamental plaster relief with an open-spoked wheel encircled by stylized leaf ornamentation is placed at the base of the curved panel on each side of the large windows. Seating in the concourse was provided by seven double-sided oak pews, which were removed by Amtrak in 1990.
Though the concourse is otherwise largely intact, its side walls have been altered. By 1952, the groups of three single-bulbed sconce fixtures used in the diaper panels above the openings in each bay had been replaced by fluorescent fixtures, and the twin-globed sconces on the piers between the ticket windows had also been removed, as were the brass queuing rails in front of the ticket windows. The original, strongly vertical ticket windows covered by bronze grills were infilled with matching brick in the 1952 renovation. The smaller, more horizontal ticket windows which were installed in 1952 remain; they fill the bottom of the original openings. Most of the jack-arched masonry openings in the side walls (such as the openings into the smoking room and the men's restroom, the women's lounge and restroom, and the newsstand, information, and parcel booths) were filled in with matching brick during the renovation done in 1952. This change was primarily made to claim public areas of the building, and convert these areas to office space as the railroad's passenger volume dwindled.
The concourse has a terrazzo floor, with a green marble border and a white marble base. This floor continues through the center bay of each side wall into a barrel-vaulted hallway in each of the side wings. The east wing's hall is flanked on either side by the above-mentioned former lounge and restroom areas and a door to an enclosed stair to the second floor. The former lounge and restroom areas have been converted to conference rooms in the most recent rehabilitation. The entire end wall of the corridor is filled by a wood curtain wall whose glazed transom and sidelights flank the entrance to the former restaurant area. Although the curtain wall remains, a reception counter has been placed where the restaurant doors were once located. The former restaurant occupied a room that extended across the width of the east wing; originally it was bisected by a stairwell and a dumbwaiter shaft to the kitchen below, thus defining areas for a marble lunch counter in the south end of the room and space for tables in the remainder. The room has since lost these original features; its volume has been subdivided by both low and full-height office partitions, and an enclosed stair has been added on the east wall. These new features were installed during the recent and ongoing rehabilitation. (Though new, the enclosed stairs are in the approximate location of the former serving room and enclosed stairs to the kitchen below.) All first-floor areas in the east and west wings have seventeen-foot high ceilings.
The west wing of the passenger station was initially occupied by railroad offices and baggage, parcel, and mail rooms. The length of the west barrel-vaulted hall was originally broken by a pair of doors set under a rectangular transom. Although this opening remains, the doors and transom have been removed. Another corridor extends perpendicular from the central hall to connect with a door into the rear concourse; this hallway contains an open stair to the second floor. The stairway is finished with an open iron balustrade and a starting newel whose paneled sides taper to a blunt cap. An oak handrail has been removed from the balustrade.
Though the former baggage and mail rooms in the west end of the west wing were only finished with glazed brick walls and plain plaster ceilings, the remainder of the interiors of the wings possessed a higher degree of finish. Though the plaster walls were given only beaded wood frames set in plain reveals around the windows, lightly stained oak was used for architrave casing, baseboards, and picture moldings, as well as six-panel interior doors and bands of six-light transom panels used in the hallways of the wings to provide indirect daylight from the rooms on the building's perimeter.
The second floor of the east wing originally contained a single large meeting room with an open stair landing. Small offices were placed in a wider section of the wing, adjacent to the central concourse section. The second floor of the west wing also initially housed offices adjacent to the central concourse section, and had a locker room for railroad employees. Both wings have ceilings that taper downward from ten feet under the ridgeline to six feet at the outside walls. Each also has original exposed steel trusses which extend below the plastered ceiling. The second-story areas in both wings of the passenger station have been rehabilitated for use as office space. The original plan has been retained in both spaces, with the open areas divided into individual offices by moveable partitions. Additional stairways with open stair landings have been created at the far end of each wing for greater safety.
The first-floor windows on the south (or rear) wall of the passenger station open into the rear concourse area; the windows were originally trimmed with ornate wrought iron grilles, which have been removed. Opposite these windows, the concrete retaining wall of the track elevation is faced with yellow brick laid in diaper panels that are trimmed with green tiles. The floor of the rear concourse was finished with white mosaic tile trimmed with a fret-patterned border laid in green tile. The rear concourse was originally divided into three distinct areas, but only by variations in its ceiling treatment. The area directly behind the main concourse, at the mouth of a tunnel used as a passenger subway to the platforms, has a slightly higher ceiling than the flanking areas. In this central portion, the coffers of a waffle slab were each filled by a horizontal pane of glass, and bands of clerestory windows were used above the openings into the side bays. Most of these features were eliminated in 1952, when brick walls were built on either side of this area, and the skylights and clerestories were eliminated.
In the flanking areas of the rear concourse, behind the side wings of the passenger station, a row of tapered concrete columns support concrete ceiling slabs. Originally these slabs were largely displaced by the wells of hip-roofed iron and glass skylights. Bench seating was provided for rail passengers. In the 1952 renovation, the skylights were removed and concrete slabs were laid over their former openings. In the west part of the rear concourse, a garage area was created by the construction of a brick wall under the existing concourse roof. The wall is recessed to provide a sheltered space outside its two overhead garage door openings. Storage pens were built along the rear wall inside this garage area. The east end of the rear concourse has a similar brick wall which is flush with the end of the original concourse roof structure. Another brick wall was inserted parallel with the track elevation retaining wall and the row of tapered concrete columns, creating a hall between the central rear concourse and the parking lot on the east side of the building. The large area of the east rear concourse thus enclosed was used by the railroad as office space, and has continued as office space in the current rehabilitation It is a large open area divided by moveable partitions into individual offices. An open stairway in its northeast corner provides access to the basement. The rear windows of the east wing of the station have been removed, and a passage through the wall has been provided for access between the office areas in the east wing and the east concourse.
The basement of the Baker Street Station follows the cruciform plan of the building, but has only seven-foot ceilings beneath its exposed concrete joists and slabs. A kitchen, which served the restaurant above, originally occupied the east wing of the basement, and that area was given the same type of plaster and oak finish used in the upper floors; the remainder of the basement has exposed concrete floors, walls, and ceilings. Both the central room and the east wing of the basement are provided natural light by large windows that are within exterior light wells at the base of the building's foundation. The central room of the basement was the location of the boiler which once heated the building, but has been removed. Part of the south end of the central portion of the basement was apparently redone as locker rooms in a 1952 remodeling, presumably to replace similar second-floor areas in the west wing which were converted into offices. Another area in the central portion of the basement was used for storage of records. Existing spaces in the west wing of the basement were also used for storage. In the current rehabilitation of the building, non- original partitions have been removed from the basement. The basement level of the east wing has been rehabilitated for storage use by the offices above, and may be used in the future for the expansion of office space.
As a part of the original design, and because the Baker Street Station was built as part of a track elevation project through Fort Wayne, a change of elevation was provided between the station building and the track platform area. By having the track area sixteen feet above the station, it became possible to provide pedestrian access to four tracks behind the station without the danger of having passengers walk across the tracks to reach the platforms, or the awkwardness of having platforms placed perpendicular to the through tracks, an arrangement which would have necessitated backing the trains onto sidings in order to reach the platforms. The rear concourse, subways, and platforms were designed by the railroad's engineering department and built by its own workmen as a part of the track elevation project in 1912-1914.
Access to the platforms was via two subways that extend under the tracks. The passenger subway is directly behind the station on the axis of the main concourse. The passenger subway opened into the rear concourse through a portal originally finished with a wooden curtain wall of doors and transoms.
This wall was likely removed by 1956. The floor of the subway ramps upward immediately behind the elevation retaining wall, then extends horizontally under the tracks and platforms, whose locations are reflected by variations in the height of the tunnel's ceiling. The subway walls are clad in yellow brick in the same manner as the retaining wall in the rear concourse, and it has a terrazzo floor trimmed with a green mosaic tile fret border. Four straight-run stairways extending perpendicular to the tunnel lead to the platforms. A second subway, used for baggage carts and freight, extends behind the southwest corner of the rear concourse at grade level; this plain concrete tunnel provided access to two large freight elevators.
Although ownership of the Baker Street Station has passed from the railroad into private hands, the elevation, subways, and platforms remain in railroad ownership. (Three rail lines remain in use just south of the now abandoned passenger platforms.) In the years that the station stood vacant, these platforms and tunnels provided easy access into the building by vagrants, thieves, and vandals. To properly secure the building and prevent future damage and trespass, both tunnels have recently been sealed with concrete block at their entrances in the elevation retaining wall. No historic material or features have been removed from either tunnel. A security fence has also been placed at the top of the elevation retaining wall, between the roof of the rear concourse and the track level, in order to prevent easy access to the roof of the station.
Upon the railroad elevation, two sets of tracks originally ran between the north platform and immediately behind the retaining wall. Another set of two tracks ran between the north and south platforms. A single track serviced the south side of the south platform. Another track even further south served as a through line. Today, only this single track south of the south platform remains as an (occasionally) active line on the former Pennsylvania Railroad elevation. The passenger platform tracks have been removed. Two additional active rail lines are nearby, on the adjacent and parallel former right-of-way of the Wabash Railroad.
As initially constructed, the platform area consisted of several distinct elements. The platforms themselves are each twenty-four feet wide and eight hundred feet long. Their concrete slabs turn upward at their edges to form a curb around brick pavers laid in sand over the slabs; the pavers have since been covered by a layer of asphalt, but are otherwise intact. Hip-roofed wooden train inspector offices formerly stood at the west end of the north platform and at the east end of the south platform. The central portion of each platform was originally sheltered by canopies consisting of flat wooden roofs supported on open steel framing. The tops of the four stairwells from the passenger subway and four separate waiting rooms located at the ends of the canopies were enclosed by stucco-clad walls built between the steel canopy columns. The sidewalls of these enclosures had large windows with small-paned sash. The baggage and freight elevators were also sheltered by the canopies, and their sides were enclosed with open steel mesh. A single file of cast iron lampposts, each topped by a twin-globed crossbar, extended past the ends of the canopies on either end of the platforms.
Asphalt extensions of the platforms were made on both their ends in 1952; these include standpipes used for watering diesel engines. During a 1956 renovation, the original stair and waiting room enclosures were demolished. Shed roofed concrete caps trimmed in brick were built over the tops of the stairwells, and the baggage elevators were enclosed in concrete block walls topped with steel siding; a single concrete block car inspector office was built near the east end of the north platform, and has since been demolished. By 1956, the cross arms of the lamp posts had been replaced by single steel shades; after Amtrak service ceased in 1990, all the lamp posts were removed from the platforms. Sometime after 1970, all of the original roofing was removed from the steel canopy structures, yet the steel structures themselves remain in place. Roofs remain on the canopy structures only over the baggage lifts.
The site surrounding Baker Street Station retains much of its original character. A grass lawn flanks both wings of the passenger station on the north side, facing Baker Street. Concrete walks border the site along Baker Street and extend along the edges of the lawns. The grounds retain two of their original lamp posts. These are tapered, fluted cast iron posts with five-globed lighting fixtures. They flank the walk at the entrance to the main concourse of the passenger station. Matching lamp posts with single-globed fixtures once lined the sidewalks at the perimeter of the site, but have been removed.
A brick-paved parking area remains to the east of the passenger station. This lot is constructed of oversize, solid brick pavers, laid flat in a typical running bond, laid on tar with joints of swept sand. The lot dates to the construction of the station, and it was labeled on the 1914 plan as the "cab and auto stand". The parking surface has since been extended westward twenty feet toward the station by a concrete slab, and a concrete walk separates it from Harrison Street. The former location of the railroad freight house, to the west of the station, has become an asphalt-paved parking lot. The lot is screened on its north side, along Baker Street, by low bushes and small trees. Concrete curbs define the edge of the planted areas. The south edge of this parking lot is defined by the concrete retaining wall of the railroad elevation. The east entrance of the parking lot, near the station building, defines the former location of a brick drive that serviced the station and the freight house.